Victoria D Gaines
"I am just naturally an energetic, passionate, playful enthusiastic, non-conformist weirdo who can be taken for a nut when it so suits peoples' fancies. Once I realized what was going on in my life, I made sure I got away from those in the mental health system and others who wished me harm, so that I was able to settle back into my peaceful, uneventful life."
Contact info: Hagerstown, Maryland, USA Her Website: vdgaines at www.geocities.com
Currently doing: Victoria is currently working on her two web sites dedicated to ending coercive psychiatry. She also enjoys surfing the net and watching television.
Mental health experience: Inpatient, Outpatient, Commitment, Psychiatric Drugs, Forced Treatment, Coercive Treatment, Solitary Confinement
Psychiatric labels: Bipolar, Racially-Paranoid, Schizo-Affective
Psychiatric drugs taken in the past: Thorazine, Haldol, Ativan, Depakote, Risperdal
Off psychiatric drugs since:
Recovery methods: Self-Help (Doesn't believe she was ever "mentally ill," but on a spiritual high)
Greatest obstacle: Other people interfering in her life.
In 1996, eight years after my first incarceration in a psychiatric ward, my ex-boyfriend physically restrained me to keep me from leaving him. Days later he called the cops, telling them I was a non-compliant mental patient who was refusing to take her medication. I had allegedly threatened him and was a threat to myself.
In reality my ex-boyfriend was a threat to himself and to me. I was planning a meeting for a job interview to return to making near the money that I used to as a computer programmer. This infuriated my ex-boyfriend--especially with my plans to work when and where I wanted, smarter and not harder. Now he had screamed that he would kill himself or me if I didn't stop doing what I was doing. He physically restrained me, inflicting several bruises on my wrists. It was this incident that directly preceded my second involuntary commitment.
As I see it these were my "crimes," my "manic insanity:" asserting my individuality, my space and independence, too quickly, too emphatically, and even attempting to leave if I did not get my way.
However, I was sure that once I got to the hospital and showed the evidence of physical abuse that my ex-boyfriend would finally be called into the nut house with me and maybe we would resolve some issues.
I had no idea what lies had been told about me.
God, was I a naive fool! The hospital, instead of ending my trauma, compounded it exponentially. I was mentally abused every day during my second hospitalization. They were unrelenting in constantly trying to force their drugs and their notions of mental illness on me. Everyday they brought the drugs to me, even though every day I said I would not take them and that they would have to take me to court if they expected me to take them. The constant mocking of me by my psychiatrist was abusive. The look of contempt he gave me when I said I was only a college graduate was abusive. The total denial of who I am and what I have accomplished in my life was abusive. To be told that other people know better than me about what is going on in my head was abusive. The abuse never stopped.
Knowing about the law regarding three days for observation, I spent the first three days trying to be reasonable, although I was still traumatized and "overly emotional." I didn't realize then that being "distraught" and overly emotional, even considering the circumstances, was still viewed as mental illness. I showed the bruises on my wrists, but no one gave a damn about the violence done to me. That's if they even believed that it was not self-inflicted. I asked for a meeting with my ex-boyfriend; this was denied. No one ever told me what I was accused of doing so I could not deny any accusations. I was supposed to just cop to having done "it" or I was suffering from "denial." I felt like I was in Kafka's "The Trial."
Everything I said was discounted, denigrated. My ex-boyfriend and my family members' lies were taken as truth and my truths were taken as lies or delusions or hallucinations and symptoms of my insanity. All my strengths--my enormous energy, confidence, intelligence, speed of thought and movement, attention to detail (I had been a computer programmer), ability to anticipate what people will say, etc., were taken as evidence of my manic-depressive disease. The angrier I got about being discredited and mistreated the more I was deemed insane and "labile." The more I expressed my spiritual beliefs (e.g., goodness triumphing over evil) the more I was diagnosed as manic, delusional, hallucinating and schizo-affective.
After the 72 hours, I began to "demand" my constitutional rights, to meet my accusers, including my ex-boyfriend, and to participate fully in my "treatment" plan. Of course, I was denied.
Due to my angry, loud contentiousness and refusal to back down from attempting to secure my human rights, I was eventually physically restrained and shot up with Haldol. I could barely move for almost two days! I had to will and push each thigh muscle to react and move just to be able to walk. What an effort it was to pick up each leg and shuffle forward barely at a snail's pace. I felt like I had been injected with some kind of horse tranquilizer.
They taught me well how to behave in a nut house. It's a lesson I will carry with me for the rest of my life. After the Haldol assault I learned real fast to keep my mouth shut around people like this "mad" psychiatrist. I was in terror: scared for my life and sanity.
From then on I more than cooperated. I kissed ass and got the hell out of there as soon as I could. They had put me on three drugs: Depakote, Ativan and Haldol. I was terrified of the effect the drugs would have on me. I usually take nothing stronger than aspirin and was petrified to imagine what these potent, toxic drugs could do to me, especially after having seen their effects on so many other people. I was finally able to persuade the psychiatrist to reduce the dosages when I could barely stay awake during group meetings. I was determined to get off those debilitating "meds" before they had a chance to permanently affect me. It took me something like 11 days after a drawn out court fiasco to finally work my way out of the hospital.
I got locked up twice more within the next few years. I was traumatized by how I was treated by my ex-boyfriend, my family, in the hospital and in court. I sent away for my medical records and was shocked and appalled at the lies these people had told about me. I am still shocked by the many positive attributes and abilities that are classified as manic. I was livid and eager to expose the "system." I was determined to somehow turn this around and use this horror to my advantage. I was going to end up on top, reclaim my honor and integrity, my good name and my future. But as it stood, these people owned me--they could accuse me of anything, including violence, and have me committed again.
No thanks to this "mental health" system, I haven't been in a psychiatric institution since 1998. How can you even trust a system that has willingly and viciously lied about you, locked you up against your will, taken you to court in order to force its will upon you, kept you drugged up on toxic, mind-numbing , body slowing, life-denying drugs, and created public records that will go down in history defining you as a violent, paranoid, delusional danger to yourself and others when you know that nothing could be further from the truth?
What has worked for me is self-help. Overall, self-help was my main means to recovery. I needed to feel like I had power once again over my own life. My searching for a lawyer, building a web-site, reaching out for support, all these things have helped me feel empowered once again.
I also took naturally to Yoga, Buddhism, and meditation. Reading stories by and/or about other survivors has helped me immensely, especially to let me know that I am not alone. Of course, reading other books about mental health that reaffirm how mentally healthy I am makes me feel real good too.
Although I no longer have true down periods, I have let myself cry things out and go deeper and deeper into the blues before I can come out on the other side (music is especially good for this), feeling happy and optimistic again. Walking is good for this, too, to clear the body and the mind.
I have let myself react naturally to negative experiences as my body/mind/soul see fit and seen myself return to an equilibrium when the issue has been resolved within my total self. I have no fear of where my body, mind, soul or spirit might take me. I have never had any fear of going inside, insane or of losing control.
I am just naturally an energetic, passionate, playful, enthusiastic, non-conformist weirdo who can be taken for a nut when it so suits peoples' fancies.. Once I realized what was going on in my life, I made sure I got away from those in the mental health system and others who wished me harm, so that I was able to settle back into my peaceful, uneventful life.
Interviewer's Comments: Victoria comes off as a fun and energetic activist. She has overcome many obstacles, including a debilitating physical disease called TMJ, to lead an impressive cyber campaign against forced psychiatry with heart and humor.